Cricket: Impressive milestone for Gatting

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The Independent Online
By David Llewellyn

at Southgate

Middlesex 488-2 dec v Essex 151-3 dec

AFTER THE deluge, the flood of runs, well there were a lot anyway. Mike Gatting picked up where he had left off the day before and turned his 93rd first class hundred into a double century - the 10th time he has passed 200 in his illustrious career and the eighth occasion he has done so for Middlesex. He had added 61 to his overnight 180 by the time he mis-drove to mid-off.

It ended a remorseless innings that had lasted more than eight hours between showers and contained 30 boundaries. His departure heralded another brief squall, an early lunch and then a bizarre spell of 10 further balls in which the Middlesex score was advanced by three runs before the captain, Mark Ramprakash, marched off to the dressing-room, followed by Owais Shah.

The declaration itself was no real surprise, because something needed to be done in order to bring about a positive result for either side. The timing was less clear. There had been just 10 deliveries after Gatting's departure; puzzled spectators felt that they could have called it a day when the great man fell. It is of little consequence, since this pleasant and efficiently run Walker Cricket Ground in North London should be the scene of some decent cricket and a challenging run chase today, because Essex declared their first innings 337 runs behind and all the signs are that Middlesex will forfeit their second innings and leave the visitors 338 to win off a minimum of 96 overs.

In the 53 and a bit overs that they batted Essex opener Paul Grayson rediscovered his timing and form and passed 50 for only the second time this summer. There was little wrong with the timing of his shots, but unfortunately he had misjudged the timing of the run-getting. A figure of 340 had originally been agreed between Ramprakash and Essex captain Paul Prichard. Grayson and Stuart Law slipped a smidgeon ahead of the rate.

When Grayson fell shortly before the close after two and a half hours at the crease, he was replaced by the big-hitting Ronnie Irani, who got off the mark with a finely struck boundary through extra cover and he and Law took the Essex first innings a little ahead of the mark when four overs still remained. There then followed a quick conference between Ramprakash, umpires and batsmen before it was realised that Essex could block out one over (bowled by the Middlesex captain) and one ball (sent down by David Nash) of what was left and then declare. They duly did. That closed proceedings for the day. Next on the agenda is the Middlesex forfeiture this morning and that run chase - provided the weather holds good.